This Easter things are not quite as usual.
And I’m not just talking about the weather. Although at times it has felt more like mid-winter than the beginning of spring.
This Easter we have a new Pope. Pope Francis.
As yet, none of us is quite sure what to make of him. None of us really knows what will he be like or where willhe lead us.
The uncertainty is a little unsettling. But at the same time,it’s exciting too.
Already, it’s clear we can expect some changes at the top. Already, it seems his style of leadership will be quite different to what has gone before. Already we’ve heard ofhow he’s chosen not to move in to the apostolic palace,of how he’s ditched the red shoes and all the lace.
On Thursday evening, as we gathered with BishopMichael, here in the Cathedral, for the Mass of the Last Supper, Pope Francis was celebrating the same Mass,not in Saint Peter’s, but in a young offenders institute.
The Holy Father knelt and washed feet, not of twelvepriests as is usual, but of twelve prisoners. One of those twelve, we now know, was a Muslim, and even more shocking – she was a woman!
Of course, not everyone is happy. For some, this break with tradition is nothing less than scandalous.
And, they are right. It is a scandal. And thank God it is.
Because this is a good scandal – a necessary scandal – forcing us to think again – about who we are, and what we do. It stops us in our tracks and points us back to the true meaning of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about.
Pope Francis, it seems, is turning the way the churchdoes things upside-down. Or as many of us might say,he’s turning things right way up.
After all, what is at the heart of our faith, if not a scandal –the scandal of the cross? And what is Easter all about, if not about turning the world upside down? Turning darkness to light, despair to hope, sorrow to joy.
We are here at Mass this morning because the one who was dead is now alive. Because Jesus Christ has broken the chains of sin and death, once for all, so that here, onearth, we might glimpse something of heaven. A heaven where all things are made new, where the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
Our Christian faith is grounded in the contradiction of the cross.
In just a short while, we will renew our baptismal promises. We remember that when we were baptised, we died to this world, so that we might live forever.
And yet so many people fail to believe in the reality of Easter. So many of our friends and family are stuck at the cross.
But if the Cross really were the last word, then we are wasting our time here. If Good Friday really were the end of the story, then our faith is no more than quaint tradition, our churches no more than museums.
But the cross is not the end. Good Friday leads to Easter Sunday; the tomb gives up its secret, and Jesus returnsto life and appears to his disciples.
We are those disciples. We are here today because at some point in our life, we too have encountered the Risen Lord. And we know his presence in our lives and in our world.
But our faith has not come easily. To be a disciple is painful. Because a disciple is one who follows. And just like Jesus before us, we too have to pass through Good Friday in order to arrive at Easter Sunday.
All of us have witnessed the effects of sin in our lives. All of us have felt the pain of grief, of doubt, and despair. But we endure these trials and these sorrows, we embrace the crosses in our lives, because it is here that weexperience the love of the Risen Christ.
Today, we recall the greatest scandal of all. That Christ died for sinners. That tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven.
Today we rejoice to see the hungry filled with good things, and the rich sent empty away. To hear the good news proclaimed to the poor, and liberty to captives.
Today, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap like the deer – and the dead are alive in Christ – forever.
Today, the world truly is turned upside down. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!